I consider myself a person mostly motivated by objectivity rather than subjectivity. I lean to function over form. When most were drooling over the BMW 3 series in the late 80s, I was obsessed with the Volvo 740 Turbo. Looked like the box it came in, handled well, was larger, and cost less. So much so that when an American car brand he favored (Buick and GM in general.) had let my Father down he turned to me and said, “What is that boxy car you are always going on about?” And in less than 2 weeks I was sat behind my Father on a test drive in a Latham, NY dealership where I knew more about the car than the salesman and had to correct him on several points.
My Father: Does this have power locks?
Salesman: <Looking for a lock/unlock switch.> Um. I do not think so.
Me: <Reaching up from the back seat and lifting Dad’s doorlock and lowering it which controlled all of the other locks.> Yes. It does. <Finished with a glare at the salesman thinking, “Do not mess this up for me. I plan on getting this car one day.”>
And that one day came many years later.
An objectively wonderful car that over time I grew to subjectively love. Would still have it today had it not met an early demise when my wife took it on a business trip. Thank God she was fine. But once that was confirmed that one hurt if I am honest. Tried, but proved impossible to replace. Even at its age, above drinking age at that point, it had not clocked 100,000 miles yet. It mostly sat reserved as our road car for many years by my Dad. So it also tied into my NY to NC road trip memories as well. Cars of similar vintage, condition, and mileage had asking prices far higher than the insurance company paid us when it was totaled. That car was almost like a family member to me. It had proved to be unbelievably reliable. Had crept over into being greater than just some inanimate object and I paid the price. Learned a hard lesson that day. Have not grown as attached to a car again since.
Back to the task at hand.
Like the Volvo, Sony cameras were the objective choice for me. Early on they had price on their side, like when Sony marked down their A7 to less than $1,000 new which first drew me in,…
…but later on, they just made the most sense to me. Especially when the A7III hit the market. By that point Sony:
- Courtesy of being first on the full-frame mirrorless train they had:
- The broadest selection of third-party and native lenses. This meant that they had the strongest used market selections as well. This is something that some company’s customers <cough. Canon. cough.> may never have access to.
- With three generations of main cameras alongside the R and S lines it had the largest selection of bodies to meet nearly any function or price point.
- With their 3rd gen A7 bodies they now had:
- Top of class AF.
- DSLR like battery life.
- Competent at nearly any task.
Some bring up things like color science but (Perhaps because I always shoot RAW?… I do not know.) this never was an issue for me.
The A7II did just fine for me.
And I had no issues to report with the A7III at all.
My appreciation for Sony largely had to do with unimpeachable competence. May not be the best at everything, but they are very good at everything. And that was enough for me. Subjectivity was not really a part of the conversation. Very nice, but its faux DSLR countenance was an aesthetic very also ran affair. Function over form. This changed with one camera release.
The first piece of the puzzle. The camera.
Sony did it. They did the thing. The thing I had hoped for but thought no one would do.
They took the innards of my trusty A7III and went there.
A full frame rangefinder-ish style, non-faux DSLR humped, compact, phase detect having, IBIS having, fully articulating screen having camera that was a part of a viable lens mount system.
I tried to make do. There were contenders…
- MFT is not quite up to the task. A fine sensor. Just not what I was looking for.
- Not particularly compact compared to larger sensor options like the A7c (on the left below).
- APS-C came close, but I really wanted full-frame. Personal preference.
- No IBIS.
- No articulating screen.
- Even with a smaller sensor, it is not particularly compact. Slightly larger than the Leica Q (far right below) in fact.
Speaking of it… Leica Q
Near perfection price no object, but…
- While competent AF is not as strong as I would like.
- No articulating screen.
- No touch screen.
- Eye AF as a standalone mode rather than an always on feature I had become accustomed to with Sony.
- While not large, as noted and pictured above the A7c is more compact.
- 28mm is a wider focal length than I would choose for an everyday camera,
- Price does play a part for me.
But even with all of that up until a recent lens acquisition, it still remained a mostly objective acquisition.
The second piece of the puzzle. The lens.
An A7III in a very appealing rangefinder-ish frock is a wonderful thing, but a lens is required to close the deal. My pursuit of such is well documented in this space and I fully admit the Q was the target. But then…
I wrote a post about this lens almost immediately where I tried to contain my enthusiasm about this lens and I failed miserably. I knew. After a long search, I knew. It was the embodiment of nearly every lens virtue I had been looking for.
- The build was at least as good if not better than the very good SIGMA 45mm f/2.8.
- In addition to an aperture ring and AF/MF switch, it adds a de-click switch and focus hold button.
- Optically top of game.
- The fastest and most accurate AF of any lens I had tried.
- Full weather resistance. The SIGMA has a lens mount gasket, but no other weather sealing was mentioned as far as I could tell.
- A perfect fit for the A7c in every way.
So much so that I easily overlooked the lens’ one down side when compared with the Leica Q. Aperture spec. And courtesy of this lens’ performance in the wild I have no complaints.
Depth of field…
…and low light performance…
…do just fine thank you very much. Excellent in fact when paired with the A7c.
And as a result, all of this has moved this lens and camera to a Sony first for me. Much like the Leica Q had once done, before its preciousness motivated me to move on after a horrifying temporary misplacement (User error admittedly.) episode. And it suits my everyday shooter needs perfectly. A subjective solution. Each of the cameras and lenses mentioned above failed to meet this test. As good as they were they all eventually became a part of the rotation.
And as an added bonus it is also quite practical. Above the stellar AF, fully articulating screen, capable video specs, etc. it serves as a replacement for my A7II as a second body to back up my trusty A7III when needed.
And it is every bit as capable as the A7III. So much so that I grabbed it first for some recent headshots.
Both captures above were taken with the excellent SIGMA 105mm f/1.4 Art. All the Leica Q pixie dust in the world cannot offset that level of flexibility for me.
If I am honest I never expected this from Sony. A lens and camera combination that I would prefer for everyday use over any brand on the market presently. For me. For my purposes. There are literally no down-sides to this camera and lens solution.
Are there combinations nearly or as capable? Certainly. But none full-frame with such a small size and aesthetic mold that can also serve as a viable second body to a mainline full-frame camera system that I know of. All for a relatively reasonable price.
To the Flickr count!
How much do I like this camera?
In much less time of ownership I just now noticed that I have more images in my A7c album than I have in my A7III album.
How much do I like this lens?
In less than a month of ownership, I have more images in my FE 40mm f/2.5 album than many prime lenses I have owned for years.
How much do I like this combination?
As much as I remember enjoying the Leica Q I was surprised to find that I surpassed my keeper count with the A7c+40mm f/2.5 already. That confirms what I was thinking. I have found the daily use camera I have been looking for with no functional or IQ compromises.
And it is such an appealing ergonomic set up that I have also not been led to use my vintage digital or analog gear for daily use as of late either.
Well done Sony.
I close with some of my favorite samples below.
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